GRPS Responds to Concerns of Parents of Children in the Oral Deaf Program

GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Grand Rapids Public Schools will not fill an audiologist position in the Oral Deaf program, but the district is hiring recently retired Jack DeBoer as a consultant to support the establishment and transition of the person occupying his position this school year. .

The move responds to parents of deaf or hard of hearing children who pressured the school board at its Aug. 3 meeting not to switch from two to one audiologist, fearing a potential decline in service and quality of well-regarded county-wide program. .

Related: Parents of Orally Deaf Students Lobby Grand Rapids Schools for Staff

Families had repeatedly mentioned DeBoer’s more than 30 years of experience and technical knowledge regarding hearing aids such as cochlear implants.

“He brings such value to the district,” Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal said during the Monday, Aug. 10, board meeting about DeBoer’s arrival to help staff and parents with the transition.

“We know it’s a great program, and I want to assure people that we will maintain the integrity of the program. I have complete confidence that it will improve.”

The plan calls for the one full-time audiologist to be assisted by five existing consultant teachers, who have master’s degrees and at least three years of experience working with hearing-impaired children across the county.

Kent Intermediate School District contracts with GRPS to operate the county’s special education program. There are 50 Oral Deaf students countywide attending Ken-O-Sha Elementary School, 1353 Van Auken St. SE, and another 100 are integrated into programs in all 20 county districts.

DeBoer had worked with the audiologist part-time (four days a week) at Ken-O-Sha Elementary School. The district offered this audiologist the full-time position.

GRPS also announced that it will enter into an agreement with Northview Public Schools for assistance with Gap Services in Ken-O-Sha during the changeover while the district builds internal capacity. Northview has an audiologist on staff as part of its overall communications program, who works more with sign language and lip reading.

Some teachers and administrators, who had previously raised concerns about leaving DeBoer’s position unfilled, expressed support for the move after meeting with Laura LaMore, executive director of the GRPS special education department.

“Thank you so much for responding and resolving our concerns regarding the position of audiologist for the Grand Rapids Oral Deaf Program,” former teacher Tom Ackerman and administrators Julie Swanson and Jim Parker wrote in an email to heads of departments. ‘establishment.

They said it was encouraging news to learn more about DeBoer’s consulting role and to confirm that the only audiologist would be full-time.

In LaMore’s report to council, she said everyone known to have concerns, including parents, has now been personally contacted about the district’s plan, which is working to provide the same services with different staff. .

“I really believe the administration is concerned about not letting the program slip away,” said Wendy Falb, a school board member, who said she was pleased that parents and former educators of the program are now reassured. “They want to maintain and improve the service.”

Maureen Slade, a school board member and retired special education administrator, said she thinks the administration handled the situation well. She said it’s not unusual for parents of special education students to be sensitive to change and demand more information.

The parents were informed by letter and at the meeting of the change planning for two years in collaboration with the leaders of KISD. KISD brought in a speech-language pathologist two years ago to help families make a choice between the GRPS and Northview programs, paving the way for the transition.

Two audiologists, officials said, were carried over from when the GRPS acted as a diagnostic center. GRPS maintains its relationship with the University of Michigan and Spectrum Health audiology clinics and existing providers of cochlear implants and amplification.

Follow-up communications are planned this week with families and staff. A meeting will be held in January to review progress and set up the transition for the second year.

Neal said staff will work with their student services office to develop a section for Parent University on “Understanding Indicators of Hearing Loss” to help parents with children in the program.

Monica Scott is the instructional writer for Grand Rapids K-12. Email her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @MScottGR or facebook

Michael A. May